Music Features

Joseph (Interview)

2016 is proving to be an exciting year for Portland-based sisters and bandmates Natalie, Allison and Meegan - collectively known as Joseph.  They're in the midst of a busy few months, with tour dates supporting James Bay and Michael Kiwanuka, an appearance on The Tonight Show featuring Jimmy Fallon and their second album, I'm Alone, No You're Not, produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk fame, scheduled for release on August 26.  And the rest of the year looks equally as busy, with extensive tour dates announced for across America and Europe (details of which can be found here).

Whilst in the UK on tour recently, the girls kindly took some time out to answer some questions for No Ripcord.  Their responses follow below.

NR:  Your new album, I'm Alone, No You're Not is released on August 26. How did the creative process of making this album differ from the process for your debut (Native Dreamer Kin)?

J:  It was, as many second albums are, a completely different process.  Native Dreamer Kin is a collection of songs that happened when we very first started singing together.  It was made with a just-because kind of feeling and it was a joy.  Then, after two years of building on that and learning to play live and getting to know the people who connected to the music, we started writing songs for I'm Alone, No You're Not.  It wasn't particularly easy and we threw away many attempts that felt insincere.  When you write with a record deal in mind, it can color what kinds of songs you want to make, and for us that meant a lot of half songs that felt preachy and removed.  It wasn't until we peeled back the layers of actual, raw feelings - both on our own and in co-writing sessions (also known to us as group therapy) - that we found the songs that needed singing.  These are songs that came from a deeper experience with hope.  Not the kind of hope that's there all of a sudden and makes your eyes widen when you hold it, but the kind that you've carried and dropped when it got too heavy but you keep picking it up.

NR:  How did Mike Mogis get on board with the project and what influence has he had on the sound?

J:  Simply put, Mike is a genius.  The thing is, we aren't really a band.  We're singers.  But we knew these songs needed more creative production and a bigger dynamic arc than we could bring with just three voices and an acoustic.  So we brought him these demos of all different genres/feels and he tied them together in a way that only his musical landscaping can.  We love the colors and textures he brought to these songs!

NR:  How have you found the last couple of weeks touring the UK?

J:  It's been incredible really...  It wasn't until we got over here that we realized most of our favorite artists are British!  And the way the festival green rooms are set up here, we've been able to hang out and make friends with some wonderful people who will no doubt remain comrades in this bizarre alternative lifestyle! But really, we love England and hope that its salty humor rubs off on us a little.

NR:  What differences have you noticed between the music scene in the UK and Europe and that of the US (Oregon specifically)?  Do audiences on both sides of the Atlantic react in the same way to your music?

J:  That has been fascinating actually!  The US is massive and full of varying cultures so I can't speak for it all but the Pacific Northwest loves indie rock while over here there seems to be more appreciation for soaring vocals with pop songwriting.  On the whole I'd say the UK has a more quiet, thoughtful audience.  Everyone says if you can win over a British crowd you can play anywhere and I think there's some truth to that.  In our brief experience it seems like British people like to make up their minds for themselves so oftentimes, the show itself will be quiet and subdued but the response on the Internet will be a flood of exclamation points and ❤️s after the fact. In the rest of Europe we've played Germany and Ireland!  Sighs on sighs.  Everyone has been so kind.  We love it on this side of the world and we learn so much by being here.

NR:  Who inspires you as a band?

J:  Oh goodness... our parents, Rilke, our friends we've met on the road who make this life work, protagonists in hero journey stories (Eragon, Kvothe, Katniss, Harry, Darrow)... Musically?  From this most recent trip we've been floored by Christine and the Queens (saw them at Longitude festival and my mouth was completely agape, tears flowing freely through their whole set), Bear's Den (a longtime favorite - they emanated joy), Flyte (my goodness, release an album ASAP please!) and of course, our hero James Bay.  I consider him to be our unofficial tutor.  He is a wonder.

NR:  I've read that you used to find it difficult writing music on the road.  Is that still the case?

J:  Definitely. Although I will say that as we add team members to help with the work load it gets easier.  It's hard to feel the creative flow when you're drowning in hotel bookings and venue settlements and driving eight hour shifts a day.  Lately we've actually had lulls to start exploring ideas.

NR:  How difficult is it touring as three sisters?   Do you have to consciously separate your professional "band" life and your family life and, if so, how do you achieve that?

J:  Mm. :) I wouldn't say that's a problem.  I think the only thing that makes it more difficult is that you have to wade through your deepest issues if you want to stay un-mad at each other but honestly I consider that to be a good thing.  It really is a gift and I feel lucky.

NR:  Outside of the band, do the three of you share similar music tastes?

J:  Yes, with a few different leanings from each of us.  Personally, I'd love for us to collaborate with Lianne la Havas, Christine and the Queens, Michael Kiwanuka and Sia.  But the artists that have most influenced us range much further, from Andrew Stonestreet, our dad's vocal jazz ensemble, and the artists in the songs from the Sister Act 2 soundtrack to Death Cab for Cutie.

Our thanks to the girls for taking the time to answer these questions.  Details of the band's upcoming tour dates can be found on their official website: